Saturday, July 26, 2008

Grading Batman's Gal Pals

By Rob Bricken

Let me be frank -- I have a penis. I'm the editor of Topless Robot, Heartless Doll's big-brother blog, and while I'm incredibly sorry to sully HD on its inaugural day with my man cooties, I come bearing a gift: on the heels of The Dark Knight's opening weekend, it's a list of the women Bruce Wayne has dated or Batman has knocked boots with in the long, pop culture career that includes his comics, movies and cartoons. OK, it's not exactly a fruit basket, but since everyone in America has been going Bat-shit crazy (Ha ha! I'm hilarious like that over at TR all the time, you should totally stop by), I thought you ladies might be curious about the incredible lows and the surprising highs that are the women in Batman's worlds. Care to join me?

Catwoman (comics)


While their alter-egos Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle sometimes date in the movies and the comics, generally, the hot and heavy passion is reserved for when they're wearing their Bat-cowl and Cat-suit, respectively. They're Super Friends with Benefits, which Batman allows himself to enjoy since Catwoman generally works as an anti-hero along with some light acts of thievery, making her a low priority after mass murderers like the Joker (it's important to note that Catwoman's just doing whatever the hell she wants).

Catwoman is the only woman on this list to have received her own comic series, involving international heists, some revenge for her own convoluted backstory (don't ask), and usually helping women and animals in need. This does give her an identity beyond her relationship to Bats. Catwoman is certainly smart and powerful (at least she escapes Batman's clutches more than any other villain), and never afraid to use her sexuality, but without becoming whorish. The best evidence of this is that she wears an outfit that doesn't expose a huge amount of cleavage, which makes her incredibly (and somewhat tragically) unique among female comic books characters. Grade: A

Chase Meridian (Batman Forever)


When Nicole Kidman talks about her most challenging roles, I'm guessing that Dr. Chase Meridian does not come up. The idea of a psychologist falling for the clearly emotionally damaged Batman is not without some storytelling merit, I suppose, but it does make her an incredibly stupid psychologist -- I'm pretty sure doctors aren't supposed to get emotionally involved with their patients, especially ones that dress like airborne mammals, and I'm absolutely sure that doctors aren't supposed to take off their clothes and reveal they're only wearing a slinky black negligee to keep their patients from leaving.

Overall, Meridian is a terrible psychologist who goes insane whenever Batman shows up. She did no favors to Batman, herself or womankind. Grade: D

Talia Al'Ghul (comics)


If you've been keeping up with the Batman comics (but, really, why would you?), you know that Talia Al'Ghul -- the daughter of the villain Ra's Al'Ghul, who was played by Liam Neeson in Batman Begins -- is actually ol' Batman's babymama. Yes, Batman, in one of the many times he couldn't be bothered to put condoms in his utility belt, had sex with the villianess who bore a son, Damien, and had him raised by a league of assassins.

After dropping him off at Bruce Wayne's doorstep a decade-plus later, she engineered two bizarre schemes to kill/hurt Batman, one involving resurrecting the dead Robin Jason Todd and financing his plans to get revenge, and another involving ninja-man bats. Summary: Talia is a pretty bad girlfriend. Grade: C-

Vicki Vale (Batman)


Admittedly, reporter Vicki Vale was in the comics long before Kim Basinger played her in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie. But for both boys and girls born in the '70s and '80s, Basinger is Vale. I'll fully admit that Ms. Vale is a favorite among the male sex mostly for launching us into puberty, but unlike the girlfriends of the later Batman movies, Vicki was strong, resourceful, and still feminine.

She had an empowering job (world photographer, sometimes of war zones), was frightened of the Joker but never fell to pieces, and still occasionally gave Batman shit for his gruff act. Plus, she was kind to Robert Wuhl's fellow reporter character, when most people would have kneed him in the balls within seconds of meeting him. If she had a flaw, it was that she got captured about 45 times in a 90-minute movie. Still, a class act, all the way. Grade: B

Silver St. Cloud (comics)


This young socialite began dating Bruce Wayne back in Detective Comics #470 (in 1977), but she was no Paris Hilton. Noticing that Bruce kept leaving their dates at odd times, she eventually became the only person in Gotham City to suspect that Bruce was actually Batman, which she confirmed by yelling "Hey Bruce!" when Batman was fighting someone or another (yes, Batman looked).

So Silver St. Cloud has been perhaps the only woman to figure out Batman's secret identity on her own. She confronted Bruce about it, told him that she loved him, but she couldn't deal with all his baggage. Silver St. Cloud is the smartest, most reasonable woman Bruce Wayne has ever dated, hands down. Grade: B+

Andrea Beaumont (Batman: Mask of the Phantasm)


If you haven't seen the Batman: Mask of the Phantasm movie because it's a cartoon, you're genuinely missing something: the best girlfriend Bruce Wayne ever had, and by far the best romance in any Bat-medium. After a young Bruce Wayne comes back from training around the world to avenge his parents by beating up bad guys, he meets Andrea Beaumont -- a nice, funny, exceedingly normal girl -- and falls in love. And Bruce Wayne is tormented -- should he follow through with his vow to his dead parents to be Batman, or should he marry the girl he loves? What would his parents really want, his happiness of vengeance? Bruce actually chooses love -- like a reasonable human being -- but then Andrea's dad crosses the mob, and she and her father have to flee. Bruce is heartbroken, and decides to become Batman.

But the story gets better: Andrea's dad is killed by the mob, and Andrea decides to get revenge for her dead father…just like Batman. She returns to Gotham City as the Phantasm, and actually kills the mobsters who ruined her life, which runs her afoul of Batman, and…I won't spoil the ending. Suffice to say, she never gets captured by the bad guys -- she captures them. Plus, she's smart, funny, strong and wonderful; it's easy to see why Bruce would rather marry her than go out like a bat every night.

Grade: A

Julie Madison (Batman and Robin)


I'm confident you either had totally forgotten until just now that Elle MacPherson starred in Batman and Robin, or just don't believe me. It's true -- she was the third-billed woman in the flick, under Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. MacPherson was Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend Julie Madison (who was also a girlfriend of Bruce Wayne in the 1940s Batman comics), but who did nothing in Batman and Robin. She may have gotten captured, actually, but I refuse to rewatch the film to find out.

I do know that George Clooney as Bruce Wayne told her he was Batman, making her the fourth woman in the movies to know Batman's secret identity, which, though ludicrous, is admittedly Batman's fault. Wikipedia says that most of MacPherson's scenes were cut from the film, including one where she gets stabbed to death by Poison Ivy. That scene would have earned her a pity "D" but instead... Grade: F

Rachel Dawes (Batman Begins)


Sure, the woman who first played her has let herself be enslaved by a man, never allowed to leave her home and forced to believe some jibber-jabber about dead aliens ruling the world, but Batman Begins' Rachel Dawes is certainly the most empowered woman in the live-action Batman universe. This Assistant District Attorney has been trying to make Gotham City a better place without dressing up in a Halloween costume. When riots break out in Gotham City late in the movie, she's immediately ready to help save as many people as possible, while most of the girls on this list would have fainted (and immediately gotten captured).

Her only real flaw -- watching Bruce Wayne fall into a big cave of bats as a child, then not putting two and two together when a clearly crazy but well-resourced man starts dressing like a bat and attacking criminals. C’mon, Rachel. It's not a toughie. Grade: A-

Rachel Dawes (The Dark Knight)

The Dark Knight earned a record-setting $155.34 million during its opening weekend, with Maggie Gyllenhaal taking over for Katie Holmes in the role of Batman's girlfriend. Grade the most recent Rachel Dawes in the comments.

Original here

For Knight Rider 3.0, KITT Mustang Gets a Supercomputer Upgrade

With a hand from Microsoft, NBC has re-engineered the tricked-out car once again for a full TV run this fall. The result, as's Hollywood geek finds live from the floor of Comic-Con 2008, is part-Shelby, part-Smart Car, but mostly an evolving HAL 9000 on wheels.

Screech Writes ‘Saved by the Bell’ Tell-all

Courtesy of NBC

Sometimes a book deal comes along that you never knew you were waiting for, but, once it's announced, you realize it has been your secret wish all along. Which explains our reaction to the news that Dustin Diamond, whose high-pitched nerdy exploits as Samuel "Screech" Powers figured prominently in nearly thirteen (!) years of Saved by the Bell incarnations (plus that infamous sex tape), has jumped on the tell-all bandwagon. Behind the Bell, which Gotham Books preempted from Objective Entertainment's Jarred Weisfeld, promises to detail "sexual escapades among cast members, drug use, and hardcore partying," and for those of us who spent untold hours in our formative years memorizing "I'm So Excited" and the entire back catalog of Zack Attack, this is the greatest book deal in the history of the universe.

But Diamond, with an assist from veteran ghostwriter Alan Goldsher, will really strike pop-culture gold if he can answer our most burning question: What if Miss Bliss had moved to Bayside with the SBTB gang instead of Principal Belding? The course of television history might have been irrevocably altered. —Sarah Weinman

Dustin Diamond's "Behind the Bell" [Publishers Marketplace, subscription req'd]

Is Elizabeth Berkley's speed-infused dance among our Great Moments in TV Addiction Subplots? Is Saved by the Bell one of the Ten Shows From the Eighties We'd Actually Like to Revive? Is Screech one of our Ten Fictional Characters Who Must Die? Check out Vulture's complete TV coverage to read more!

Original here

Emo and goth to be made illegal in Russia

The Russian government is in the process of drafting a law to make emo and goth music illegal.

Last month a parliamentary committee was convened to discuss a draft proposal of the Russian government's Government Strategy In The Sphere Of Spiritual And Ethical Education bill, the details of which were leaked to The Moscow Times. The newspaper subsequently reported that, among other things, the draft bill dubbed the musical movements a "dangerous teen trend" and called for emo and goth websites to be regulated and young people dressing like emos or goths to be banned from entering schools and government buildings.

The newspaper interviewed one of the bill's authors, Igor Ponkin from the Russian Interior Ministry's Public Oversight Council. Ponkin called emo a "social danger" and "a threat to national stability" and said the bill is a reaction to teen suicides such as the tragic death of British teenager Hannah Bond.

"This type of behaviour is a crucial part of emo ideology," said Ponkin. "Of course there are emo teens who just listen to their music. But our actions are not directed at them but rather at those who also hurt themselves, commit suicide and promote those acts."

The Moscow Times also interviewed psychologist Inna Cherkova who said:

"Suicide is not a symptom of emo culture. I work with other teens too, and every group has emotionally troubled kids."

However, the bill is expected to become law in Russia before the end of the year.

Original here

Rant: 5 Reasons No One Cares About The New X-Files Movie

By Josh Tyler
The title of this story is of course, a gross generalization. There are indeed people out there who do care about the new X-Files movie. In fact all ten or twenty of them are rushing to this website right now and plotting ways to send me death threats.

Yes it’s a generalization to say no one cares about the X-Files movie, but like all good generalizations, it's one that rather accurately reflects the sort of non-buzz there is out there for this movie. X-Files: I Want To Believe opens this very weekend, and it currently has the kind of pre-opening excitement around it that’s usually reserved only for should-have-been direct-to-DVD movies like Space Chimps. It’s a shocking state of affairs for a franchise that a mere decade ago completely ruled the geek world. Maybe things will turn around, maybe audiences will show up in droves this weekend and somehow knock The Dark Knight out of the top spot, but a long slow look around right now reveals a world in which no one seems to remember X-Files even exists, much less care enough about it to see Mulder and Scully’s new outing.

Why are things going wrong? Where’s the interest? It’s simple really. I’ve broken it down into five easily digested reasons:

5. The Dark Knight
It’s the same reason Hellboy 2 only made around $30 million opening weekend, even though it received stellar reviews and a monster marketing blitz. People have one movie and one movie only on their brains right now, and it’s about a guy who likes to dress up as a flying rat. Those who haven’t been able to see it because of sold out showings are planning to see it this weekend. Those who have already seen it are planning their second, third, and fourth sojourn into The Dark Knight world. Yes, the hype really is that out of control. Opening a movie in any sort of proximity to this sort of record-breaking phenomenon is suicide. Here comes X-Files, ready to commit hara-kiri. The Dark Knight is officially the biggest movie of all time, and for the next couple of weeks everything else will be stuck living in its shadow.

4. Bad Marketing
We’ve started seeing a few advertisements over the last week or so, but it was too little too late. By the time Fox got around to really trying to raise awareness on this thing, most potential moviegoers were already focused on something else. Meanwhile, the marketing they have done hasn’t been particularly exciting. The little plot nuggets they’ve dropped all seem to revolve around Mulder and Scully kissing or getting all romantic, a plotline that the X-Files series laid to rest years ago. It’s a dead subject. Hey moviegoers! Who wants to buy a ticket to see a tired old will-they-won’t they gimmick rehashed?

3. Stifling Secrecy
The production of X-Files: I Want To Believe has been wrapped in utter and total secrecy. Even now, a mere few days before the movie is released, 20th Century Fox still hasn’t handed out a proper plot synopsis. Worse, during the production they put out fake news items to trick whatever fans they have into thinking the movie was something it wasn’t, and then pulled the rug out from under them over and over and over again. I know a lot of the most hardcore X-Files fans are still excited to see this thing, but it’s hard to imagine a world in which at least a few of them might not feel a little burned by the mess. For the more casual fans, at some point they got tired of the bait and switch game and simply started ignoring not only whatever X-Files news has been floating around out there, but by extension the existence of the movie itself. I understand the need to keep the specifics of a plot on a movie like this under wraps, but there’s a way to do that without lying to and shutting out your supporters. X-Files: I Want To Believe never seemed to figure that out.

2. No One Cared About The First Movie
Even the first movie was met with somewhat lukewarm reception, and it was released a full decade closer to the epicenter of X-Files popularity. It made money, but it never really burned up the box office and people seemed to forget it as soon as it was gone. A mediocre, moderately well received film is hardly the sort of launching point to carry a fandom through a decade dry spell and keep them energized enough to support a new entry in the franchise when it finally pops up ten years later. The whole franchise has already been wrapped up pretty tightly. Fans haven’t spent the last 10 years wondering what if. They’ve moved on. Which brings me to number one….

1. The World Has Outgrown The X-Files
We’ve outgrown The X-Files. All of us. That includes the cast. David Duchovny has gone on to more interesting projects which allow him to hang around beautiful naked women on cable television, and Gillian Anderson went where all overrated geek obsessions eventually go: out of sight out of mind. As for the X-Files faithful, well they’ve moved on to better shows which have arrived to fill The X-Files void. People like JJ Abrams have stepped in to do what Chris Carter once did, and done it even better. The whole mystery thing has turned mainstream, and at best Chris Carter’s tired old show is retro. It was great in its time, but its time is long past. The world has changed, we’ve changed, and the creepy mystery of the X-Files world is nothing more than old hat. Been there done that.

Original here